Jayden Parsons is bringing his passion for helping young people improve their mental wellbeing through physical activity to his new role as a member of the new Queensland Youth Engagement Panel.
A young man who wears many hats, Jayden is currently completing his Bachelor of Laws through Griffith University, is a member of YMCA Australia’s Office for Young People, a Global Change Agent for the World Alliance of the YMCA’s, and is a mentor for the YMCA Youth Parliament.
He hails from a regional city known for its struggles with mental health and through this, and his own challenges, 23-year-old Jayden Parsons found his calling.
Jayden is Youth Development Coordinator at YMCA Brisbane, a role in which he coordinates the mYnd-pump program, focused on assisting young people in improving their mental wellbeing through physical activity.
Programs run for 12 weeks at four YMCA sites across South East Queensland, are free to join, and are supported by staff trained to recognise and refer participants onto more specialised services, if needed.
The mYnd-pump program started in 2018 in collaboration with the University of Queensland. It was borne out of 18 months market research and development that identified a potential ‘missing ingredient’ in the known links between physical activity and mental health—the impacts of shared experience and community.
“We know the benefits physical activity has on wellbeing, yet in our conversations with young people during the research phase, it became evident that creating a self-empowered community—and all the supports that come with it—was also what they were seeking,” Jayden said.
“Having a community inspires accountability for many of our participants—it’s about showing up for themselves as much as for others.”
“One of the most validating moments in getting this program off the ground was entering the gym at Bowen Hills and seeing six people training together who were participants in an earlier program. They were there because they wanted to be there, and they were there for each other,” he said.
In creating a program that offers youth a non-clinical, yet supportive environment to help manage anxiety, depression or stress, Jayden and his YMCA colleagues are busy gathering participant data to support the program’s future, while making improvements along the way.
Right now, they’re working on an app (while trying to secure further funding) to support participant engagement, as they’ve found that drop-off occurs among participants.
“By using real time data to reflect back to participants their progress or areas needing a little more focus, we’re expecting to encourage engagement outside of the program to help maintain motivation and momentum.”
Jayden and the team also measure entry and exit wellbeing scores.
“Across our six main measures, we’re seeing promising results, with overall a 20 per cent increase in positive mental health and a 37 per cent decrease in mental ill-health among participants.”
With more than 40 people have attended the program since its inception, the YMCA relies on word of mouth, its own channels, and a handful of school guidance counsellors to connect youth with the program, which currently runs a wait list for those interested in attending.
“Young people generally don’t want to shy away from calling it what it is when they’re struggling, yet they need to feel empowered to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to managing their mental health and wellbeing: and the mYnd-pump program helps pave the way for regular, constructive, internalised habits.”
Jayden’s advice for others? “Try to be real when connecting with friends and colleagues. Ask them how they’re doing. Then ask them how they’re really doing … “
Learn more about the YMCA mYnd-pump program.
Jayden is completing his Bachelor of Laws though Griffith University, is a member of the YMCA Australia’s Office for Young People, a member of the taskforce delivering the Global Change Agent program for the World Alliance of the YMCA’s, a former mentor for the YMCA Queensland Youth Parliament, and is a member of the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women’s Queensland Youth Engagement Panel.